Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute and Weekly Webzine Site
1996 ~ Over 10,000 Webpages in Archive
James Killian Spratt's Graphic
Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess
20: Part II
(click panels for full-screen size)
The third huge door smoothly opened,
leading us into a large chamber
containing a table filled with food.
The voice directed us to eat, while my
invisible host gave me
an intense cross-examination.
"You are not of Barsoom!" he stated.
"Your organs are oddly located and
I cannot read your thoughts.
Most remarkable! --
What manner of creature are you?!"
I told him my tale truthfully.
Then a door slid aside and
a dried-up little mummy of a man
entered the room.
He wore nothing but a golden collar
from which depended a diamond-studded ornament
as big as a dinner-plate,
from the center stone of which
radiated nine beautiful rays of light.
He sat and we talked for hours.
The ninth ray, unknown to the earthly prism,
was so gorgeous as to defy description.
I noticed that I could read his every thought,
but he could not read mine unless I spoke.
I saw no need to mention this
as he explained that this
building contained the machinery
to make the artificial atmosphere
which supports all life on Mars.
He and one assistant alternated solitary
of half a Martian year
tending the twenty massive pumps.
The old man led me to an inner chamber
where I beheld a battery of twenty radium
any one of which was equal to
furnishing all of Mars with atmosphere.
He had run them for eight hundred years;
he was a man of no nation,
protected wherever he went upon Barsoom
by his medallion,
though he avoided green men.
The great tanks contained
enough of the refined ninth ray,
distilled from sunlight and electro-charged,
to maintain the atmosphere
for a thousand years.
However, the pumps
had to be kept running at all times,
lest all life on the planet
suffocate and die.
So important is this plant's function
that the red men built it as a huge fortification.
Its walls are one hundred and fifty feet
the greatest fear being
attack by the wild green men,
or some demented red man.
Only the two caretakers know
the combination to the doors,
are operated telepathically.
Casually I asked my new acquintance
how he managed to open such heavy doors.
Instantly nine Martian sounds
leapt into his mind,
which he immediately suppressed,
stating that this was a secret
that he dare not divulge.
Suddenly regarding me with fear and suspicion,
he tried to appear outwardly still friendly;
he promised me a letter
to a nearby agricultural officer
which would help me in Zodanga,
the nearest city.
He warned me that
Helium and Zodanga were enemies,
then offered me a bed for the night,
which I gratefully accepted.
But as I said goodnight
I saw in his mind an alarming scene.
Out of his fear that he had let slip
the secret entry to the plant,
a sacred trust
which he was duty-bound to protect,
he felt that he had to kill me,
for the good of Barsoom.
I lay down, wondering whether to kill him,
but what then of
the atmosphere plant and Barsoom?
And above all, Dejah Thoris?
Then it came to me to try
the combination to the doors myself,
so I summoned Woola and
slipped into the corridor.
Creeping stealthily through the corridors,
I was about to step into the hall
where I had broken my long fast
when a noise behind me
warned me back into a
shadowed recess where,
dragging Woola within,
I crouched low in the darkness.
The old man passed close by me,
--a long, thin dagger.
I saw in his mind his plan
to inspect the radium pumps
-- a thirty-minute chore --
then to return to my bed-chamber
to finish me,
and watched in breathless silence until
he disappeared down the runway
to the pump-room.
Woola and I
slipped into the entrance hall
and I faced the inner portal
to try my wild scheme.
I focused my mind and
hurled the nine thought waves at it,
and slowly, one after another,
the great doors slid aside.
Within a minute Woola and I
stepped free into the darkness,
little the better
but for full stomachs,
and hastened away
from the massive pile.
We struck out
for the nearest crossroads,
intending to strike the central turnpike
as soon as possible.
We found the great road around sunrise,
and I looked for signs of habitation.
There were low, rambling outbuildings
with heavy, impassable doors,
but no one was about
in the quiet hours of early morning.
No amount of hammering and hallooing
brought any response, so,
weary and exhausted
I threw myself down
while Woola stood guard.
Some time later
I was awakened
by his frightful growling,
and opened my eyes
to see three red Martian men,
covering us with rifles.
I hastened to explain,
"I am unarmed and no enemy.
I have been a prisoner of the green men
and am on my way to Zodanga.
All I ask is food and rest
for myself and my calot
and proper directions to my destination."
At this the three lowered their rifles
and advanced pleasantly, to greet me
with the customary Martian salute.
Their curiosity aroused, they began
asking me many questions about myself
and my wanderings.
They then took me
to the home of one of them,
just a short ride away.
The buildings I had been hammering at
contained only stock and farm produce,
the houses proper being situated
some distance away
among a grove of enormous trees.
The three were brothers named Ptor,
and were government officers
who lived with their wives and children
on this farm and
oversaw the convict laborers.
The families' homes
were similar in design
and not far apart.
instead of bothering with bolts and bars
for their dwellings,
the red Martians simply run them up
forty or fifty feet from the ground
on a long metal shaft sunk into the ground.
The elevator was operated by
a tiny radium engine in the entrance hall,
or remotely if they wished to go away
and leave them.
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| 3 | 4
| 5 | 6
| 7 | 8
| 9 | 10
| 11 | 12
| 13 | 14
| 15 | 15a
| 16 | 16a
| 17 | 17a
| 18 | 19
| 19a | 19b
| 20 | 20a
| 21a | 21b
all correspondence to
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